ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
A star NFL player has been barred from his team over suspicion that he abused his 3-year-old son. The Kansas City Chiefs say wide receiver Tyreek Hill cannot take part in any team activities, including offseason workouts. On a newly released audiotape, two people said to be Hill and his fiancee discuss a police investigation into the child's broken arm. On the tape, Hill's fiancee accuses Hill of causing the injury.
Joining us now is NPR's Tom Goldman. Hi, Tom.
TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Hi, Ari.
SHAPIRO: Catch us up on the background to this story. I understand prosecutors initially said they would not file any charges in this potential case of child abuse.
GOLDMAN: That's right. The DA said he thinks a crime was committed against the child, just couldn't prove who did it. So on Wednesday of this week, there were no charges filed against Hill or his fiancee, who I should add is also now pregnant with twins.
SHAPIRO: And now there is this audiotape. Describe where it came from and what's in it.
GOLDMAN: Yeah. It emerged the day after the prosecutor made his announcement about no charges. It was first played on a local TV station in Kansas City Casey, KCTV. And it was described as a tape made in March while Hill and his fiancee, Crystal Espinal, were walking through the Dubai International Airport. Now, we haven't independently verified that it's actually Hill and Espinal, but the tape is out there; nobody has denied its authenticity. In fact, the Chiefs, Hill's team, say they are deeply disturbed by what's on it.
The whole tape is about 11 minutes long. We have a couple of short excerpts. On this first one, Espinal appears to accuse Hill of breaking their son's arm. Hill speaks first, and the child's name, I should say, is bleeped out on the tape.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
TYREEK HILL: I didn't do nothing.
CRYSTAL ESPINAL: Then why does (beep) say, Daddy did it? Why? Why does (beep) say, Daddy did it?
HILL: I don't know. He says Daddy does a lot of things.
ESPINAL: Like what?
HILL: A lot of things.
ESPINAL: A 3-year-old's not going to lie about what happened to his arm.
GOLDMAN: Now, Ari, in this next clip, Hill appears to threaten Espinal. Here it is.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
ESPINAL: He is terrified of you. And you say that he respects you, but it's not respect.
HILL: He respects me.
ESPINAL: It's terrify - he is terrified.
HILL: No, you [expletive]. You need to be terrified of me, too.
SHAPIRO: Wow. So Tom, what have prosecutors said about this tape?
GOLDMAN: We haven't heard anything publicly from the prosecutors, but there are a number of reports out today, Ari, that the DA has reopened the case in light of this new audiotape.
SHAPIRO: And what about Tyreek Hill? Has he issued a statement?
GOLDMAN: He has. He released a statement saying in part, quote, "I love and support my family above anything. My son's health and happiness is my No. 1 priority." I contacted his lawyers today. They declined to comment because of what they called confidentiality laws. They have said, though, that Hill maintains his innocence and that he has cooperated with law enforcement.
SHAPIRO: Tom, this painful and upsetting story is unfolding in the middle of one of the NFL's biggest offseason events, the NFL draft. So what's the impact?
GOLDMAN: Yeah, that's right. Well, the draft goes on of course. But this is the kind of publicity the league obviously hates, especially, as you point out, in the middle of this crown jewel moment that the NFL always loves as a way to, you know, keep sports fans consumed by the NFL even when there's no football being played - so bad PR again for a league, you know, that seems to often deal with controversy.
SHAPIRO: And also for the Chiefs, which has dealt with this problem in the past.
GOLDMAN: Yeah, you're absolutely right. Chiefs are one of the best teams in the NFL. They almost got to the Super Bowl last season. But controversy has been following them even before this week. Kansas City star running back Kareem Hunt - he led the league in rushing yards his rookie season in 2017. Last year, he was videotaped shoving and kicking a woman, and he was released by the team just a few months ago. Also, the Chiefs just traded for a top defensive lineman, Frank Clark. He was arrested on a domestic violence charge in 2014, kicked off The University of Michigan football team. And let's not forget, Ari, that Kansas City drafted Tyreek Hill in 2016 knowing that he had pleaded guilty to a charge of domestic violence against his then-girlfriend, who is now his fiancee.
SHAPIRO: That's NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman. Thanks, Tom.
GOLDMAN: You're welcome, Ari. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.